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#askNat – concerning The Beatles’ “Drop-T” logo

This week on #askNat I have the pleasure of answering a question sent in from Tony in South Carolina who writes:

Considering myself a fairly schooled, yet ‘amateur’ Beatles historian, I’m almost ashamed to ask this, but it has niggled at my brain throughout the years, and having read the finest and most informative writings on the group, I have yet to have this question answered: Who exactly is the creator of The Beatles’ universally-recognized logo? The stuffy-yet-hip font style? The large caps with smaller-sized caps? The centering of ‘The’ above ‘Beatles’? The classic extended ‘T’, is as unique today as it was then. It seems that this particular logo has been in existence since the ‘Beatles’ group name itself – but who created it?

Good question Tony and as usual I will take the liberty of going into a few extra details in presenting the answer you seek.

Since you are only asking “who” I will tell you the man’s name was Ivor Arbiter and he hails from the south of London. He opened up a music shop in London called Drum City n the late fifties after having worked as a drummer and also as a saxophone repairman. Ivor took much pride in the fact that he had the only drums-only store in London.

In April of 1963 Ringo Starr and Beatles manager Brian Epstein visited Drum City to find a replacement for Ringo’s Premier drum kit. Ringo eventually selected a Ludwig set with an oyster black pearl finish and Brian negotiated with Ivor for a trade-in of Ringo’s old kit. Ivor wanted the Ludwig logo to appear on the drum head since he’d recently started a distribution agreement with the company. Brian agreed on the condition that The Beatles name should be on it too. Ivor then made a quick spur-of-the-moment sketch of the famous “Drop-T logo” (as it was later referred to as) on a piece of scrap paper. Brian paid Ivor £5 for the design and he had a local sign expert, Eddie Stokes, paint the logo on the drum head. The upper case “B” and dropped “T” were appropriately meant to emphasize the word “beat.”

The famous Drop-T logo design for The Beatles

The famous Drop-T logo design for The Beatles

Ringo’s new kit was ready for pick-up by May 12th and along with some new Paiste cymbals, were delivered to Alpha Television Studios where the band went to film a performance for the television show Thank Your Lucky Stars. The show aired the following Saturday (May 18th) showing off Ringo’s new kit that sported the new logo for the first time as The Beatles mimed to “From Me To You” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”

By the end of the year the paint on the original drum head was flaking and so it was back to Drum City so that Eddie Stokes could repaint the logo (a little larger this time around) on a new drum head. The design for the original drum head was last seen in public on February 4, 1964 during their show at Paris’ Olympia Theatre. By their next performance which happened to be at the Ed Sullivan Show in New York on February 9th, the new drum head with the larger logo was in use. Legend has it that Ringo still has the original drum kit in his possession along with the first drum head with logo.

In 2010 Simon Garfield published Just My Type: A Book About Fonts and chapter 19, titled “The Serif Of Liverpool” discusses further the origins of the famous logo and even includes information from Paul McCartney himself about it. I’ve included an Amazon link for more on the book below.

Finally, I should point out that the “drop-T” logo is still in wide usage today on The Beatles Past Masters CD sets, The Beatles Rock Band, Stereo and Mono box sets (CD & new stereo vinyl), Anthology material and much more.

Thanks again Tony for a great question that I’m surprised did not come up earlier.

Have something to add? Put it in the comments section below and thanks for reading!

Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:

1) There is a designated form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks), but modfied to do both BROW requests and #askNat questions.

2) If you are a Facebook user, you can submit your question right on TheBeatlesRarity FB wall at www.facebook.com/beatlesrarity. If you think about it, try to remember to flag your question with “#askNat”.

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4) For you Twitter users, www.twitter.com/beatlesrarity gets you to the right place. Post your question and be sure to add “#askNat” somewhere in the tweet.

Shop Amazon for any of your favorite Beatles-related music/books:

1) Just My Type: A Book About Fonts – 2012 reprint edition by Simon Garfield and including a chapeter that discusses The Beatles’ famous ‘drop-T logo.

2) Beatles Music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

19 people think this is FAB!

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  • Elliott Marx says:

    What and interesting question. I would never have thought about the font or its origins. Didn’t Ringo lose a lot of memorabilia because of a fire at some point? I wonder what he still has.

  • Irene Berry says:

    Just amazing how that logo has not aged a bit. It’s as eye-catching, clean and timeless as it ever was. A case of the right eye at the right time, and classic from the moment it was created: like Astrid K.’s photos…or like the music itself. Amazing, when you think of it.

  • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

    Outside of the drum head back in the 60s I don’t recall much use of the logo as an original trademark. It seems really since Past Masters that they’ve really started using that as a logo. Rubber Soul, Help!, really all their LPs had used fonts which worked with each album rather than using a band logo. I love it though and you can do a search for it on the web and add the font for your own enjoyment. ;-)

    I have gathered a few myself from Yellow Sub, and others but the best one I found for that logo font is called Bootles playing on their famous “Beatle boots” they used to wear.

    The font I’d like to grab is the handwritten Apple font. But as logos go, they used the Apple logo plenty and really got great recognition out of using it as a brand, but NEMS and their own logos really didn’t stand out back then. Signs would just type out the name of the band in whatever font stood out best.

  • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

    Oh and you can also get it in white or black as a sticker for your car window. ;-) I have a nice one my girlfriend gave me of the Abbey Road silhouettes of the four of them and the white stripes in white and that’s all you need to recreate the image in your head when you look at it. lol But their name logo is also available and looks equally great in either black or white.

  • carol says:

    So much great info on the subject. I never knew the guy was paid 5 lbs.! Wow. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

  • boil says:

    ringo was also a camera bug, and must of shot tons of pix that havent been seen. remember the scene in ahdn, this boy scene, with ringo and the cameras…. just sayin.

  • Paul Normandia says:

    One thing about the dropped T is that the earliest drumheads, done by a sign painter, show proper weight of the B and T. That is, the ascenders (vertical parts) of the B and T have the same weight as the other letters. This creates a visually even look for the design. Later on it seems the B and T got heavier, making for an unbalanced type treatment. By the time of the computer typography used for the 2009 remasters, the graphic artist simply enlarged the B and T, ignoring the balanced font styling created by Eddie Stokes.

  • Stew Hall says:

    The finish on Ringo’s Ludwig Sets 1-4 is Oyster Blue not Black although Ludwig also offered Oyster Black.

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